There was a comical case of hedgebreaking in the seventeenth century when Peter the Great stayed in the diarist John Evelyn’s house in Deptford. He was there to study shipbuilding on the adjacent Thames dockyards, but was prone to throwing parties back at the house. Evelyn, a devoted gardener, was especially proud of his holly hedges and was appalled to discover that the Tsar had been playing drunken games in which a servant pushed him in a wheelbarrow through not only the flowerbeds, but also the hedges.
Happily the hedges recovered from any damage inflicted – soon afterwards Evelyn wrote:
Is there under heaven a more glorious and refreshing object of the kind, than an impregnable Hedge a hundred and sixty feet in length, and seven feet high, and five in diameter, which I can shew in my poor Gardens at any time of the year, glittering with its armed and vernish’d leaves? The taller Standards at orderly distances blushing with their natural Corall. It mocks at the rudest assaults of the Weather, Beasts, and Hedgebreakers.
(Quoted from Hedge Britannia).
Here’s a good example of how vigilance and knowing the regulations can help to protect your local hedgerows – over seven miles of hedgerows saved near to Shrewsbury because enough people bothered to make their objections known.
I don’t usually publish gardening titles in my day job at Constable & Robinson, but this is one of mine. It’s a pretty reissue of a classic 1834 manual by Jane C. Loudon, who was also an artist who created some lovely flower paintings – we’ve added some of these to the book as appropriate decorations. It’s an interesting period piece as it comes from a period when many women would have been expected to have more delicate hobbies, and at the same time has some basic advice which is still interesting today. Rather than write more about it, here is the blurb.
Having married a gardening expert, it seemed to Jane C Loudon, that everyone around her knew far more about plants and gardening than she did, but she quickly learned the art of horticulture from her husband and decided to pass his teachings on to other ladies to help them enjoy the delights of the garden. Gardening for Ladies was, and still is, an entirely practical book that describes how a lady can make the most of her garden in a clear and precise way. Digging over a flowerbed might have been work for a rough-handed, rope-muscled garden worker, but Jane explained how a lady could tackle the job without undue strain, and explained why it was necessary. The advice and instruction in this classic gardening book is as relevant today as it was when it was written 180 years ago.
Just to say that there are some lovely pictures of ornamental hedges of all sorts here.
Neatly combining two of my favourite things, here is a picture of some topiary elephants near to Richmond.
Apparently Brad and Angelina have stayed at this house recently and the rumour is that Posh and Becks may be moving in. According to a copy of Grazia which has inexplicably found its way into my house…
At the Garden Media Awards* ceremony yesterday I was talking to Paula, a journalist, who had a lonicera hedge that had been squashed into a lop-sided shape by the snow. She went to some trouble to cloud-prune it, only to be informed by her teenage son that it “looked like a turd”. She eventually cut it down though she is planning to plant a new one, possibly beech.
This anecdote reminded me of the strange patterns of the yew hedges at Montacute in Somerset – the winter of 1947 left one hedge weighed down by snow and twisted into new shapes. But over the following years, the gardeners tended the result, and added the same effect to an opposing hedge, giving the garden an intentionally abstract feel.
There’s a nice picture of a rather precarious looking gardener at Montacute here.
* I didn’t win the inspirational book category, which was won by Led by the Land but the lunch was excellent and it was all good fun.